Time flies! I can’t believe we are now into another season of new crop Attikan. My original reason for visiting India four years ago happened after a chance encounter with Sunalini in Rwanda. We naturally got chatting about her specific area of expertise, Indian coffee. Like many of us in the specialty industry, I was apprehensive about what India had to offer – and with good reason. We’ve seen a steady stream of sub-par Indian coffees floating around which are often characterised by harsh, dusty and rough finishes. These coffees have literally marred our perception of an entire coffee country.
At that particular time, I was on a mission to find another ‘heavy bodied’ coffee option for our line-up. Our offerings are not just about picking the ‘best’ possible coffee, it’s broader than that. We’re all about picking the best coffees with varying profiles in mind. The ‘ingredients’ ensure we have an offering which is not only about quality, but also about diversity. At the time, I was not short of ideas on where to find acidic, bright, delicate, floral, fruity coffees … but what I really wanted was a couple more options to sit alongside the Brazilian and Indonesian coffees which offer cup profiles with a focus on big bodies, texture, creamy mouthfeels etc …
So with very little convincing, I knew I had to see India first hand and come to my own conclusions.
It’s just not in my nature to buy into negative perceptions without really experiencing them first hand. The story is a long one, but the results are short and sweet. Sunalini spends the majority of her time consulting for Indian farmers who want to turn their farms into something ‘special.’ It’s really simple when you break it down to a desire to be the best that you can be. Of the many farms I visited that year, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to the Attikan Estate immediately. Factors such as its geographical isolation, the surrounding tiger sanctuary, the fact that the plants flourish at altitudes higher than many believed existed in India for coffee and the age and history of the farm ticked box after box in my head. I then blind-cupped a broad range of coffees from all the different farms I visited, probably over 100 coffees over 8-10 rounds of cupping. Amazingly, all of my blind selections were from Attikan, the estate I loved on first sight. It solidified in my head that this place was special, and it continues to be unique enough for me to blindly select these coffees year after year. It’s still a bit of inside joke, as every year we add a couple of new farms to the cupping table – and I can still pick out my beloved Attikans, a testament to their distinct character.
And so this is how the story went – and it has evolved into an amazing relationship that is now 100% directly traded between Five Senses and Attikan Estate.
I’ve cupped this coffee blind with many coffee professionals and not once has anyone guessed that it was an Indian coffee! Why? Because the one character it lacks is dryness, roughness or harshness. It ended up being a coffee that is not only characterised by its creamy, rich body, but it also gives us beautiful deep fruit notes, milk chocolate, a lingering mouthfeel and hints of the delicious spices which are grown alongside the coffee.
This coffee exceeded my expectations from India by far and has become my favourite ‘body’ coffee. The freshness of the green beans and the pre-monsoon shipping deadline we aim for means that this coffee is extremely versatile in terms of shot length and extractions. Try it as a single and you’ll see what I mean.
Each year I visit a couple more farms in India, knowing that eventually we will exhaust the amount our small Attikan Estate can provide us with. I’ve yet to find something that comes close, besides the very, very small amount of Merthi Mountain we get each year. So I’m still on the hunt!